Nintendo is no stranger to designing their game consoles. Aside from special edition cases and colors, the company is famous for rejiggering this or that and coming out with yet another GameBoy or Nintendo DS model, whether bigger, louder, or brighter, with several new colors.
They generally don’t, however, change their major consoles. Sony and Microsoft have each come out with smaller, cooler-running versions of their own home consoles, though, and it looks like Nintendo wants in on some of that sweet, money-making action.
Enter the Wii Mini.
The Wii Mini is substantially smaller than the original Wii, just barely bigger than the Wii remote on each side. The slot-loading disc drive is gone, replaced with a mechanism that looks familiar if you owned the Nintendo Gamecube – push a button in the corner, and up pops the top of the console.
Inside, however, the Wii Mini includes almost everything that the original Wii did. What’s missing, however, are the memory card slot, SD card slot, and Gamecube controller ports. Oh, and Internet connectivity. While that might seem like a major deal, Internet access really wasn’t a major concern on the Wii, with limited, difficult multiplayer capabilities, a mediocre download platform that had issues if you ever needed to transfer your purchases, and so on. While Wi-Fi chips these days aren’t quite costless, leaving one out still saves Big N a couple of bucks on every Wii that gets sold.
More importantly, though, consider the target audience. The Wii Mini is very clearly targeted at the younger end of Nintendo’s already young demographics. The age where sturdy and cheap become important considerations in a video game console. And what’s more, the lowered cost and lack of wireless radios make the Wii Mini an easier sell in countries where the Wii isn’t being sold. No wireless means no radition testing and regulatory filings.
At just $99, the biggest omission Nintendo has made is the lack of Wii Sports in the box – but savvy shoppers can always pick a copy up at their local used games shop for less than $10.
The weird part of the whole story is the console’s location – Nintendo has decided that the Wii Mini will be available in Canada, and Canada only, at least through this holiday season. In Canada, the regular Wii still sells for $149.99. The company is keeping mum on plans for the new console beyond that, leading yours truly to speculate whether Canada’s smaller population may simply be serving as a large-scale bellweather for the newest of what’s-old-is-new-again consoles.